Updated: Jan 10, 2019
By Jenna Lazenby
Rooster Walk is officially a wrap. Four days of music and fellowship came to a close Sunday night with festival-favorite, Americana rock band Yarn, closing down the party with a tribute to The Band’s iconic Last Waltz set.
This year’s 10th anniversary festival drew in a crowd of nearly 6,000 music lovers who were treated to an eclectic lineup of bands and artists collaborations. There was significant showing of the region’s bluegrass musical roots, but with more than three dozen bands spanning the four days, there was a little something for every musical taste.
Headliners included The Wood Brothers, JJ Grey & Mofro, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Zach Deputy, The Marcus King Band, and The Commonheart. The stacked lineup also featured Billy Strings, The Jerry Douglas Band, TAUK, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, and numerous others.
In addition to the Last Waltz recreation, The Trongone Band performed a Gregg Allman tribute on Sunday afternoon, marking the one-year anniversary of his passing. Both sets included numerous guests artists, as did Saturday’s The Jammy Jam, hosted by The Grass is Dead. Late night Friday also featured “King & Strings,” the first-ever musical collaboration of Marcus King and Billy Strings, two of the fiercest young guitar players on the scene.
While music was certainly the centerpiece of the action, the festival also showcased 35 food, arts and craft vendors, a disc golf tournament and a kid’s activities area. Those festival goers who didn’t get enough movement from moving their feet to the ridiculous amounts of good jams, could participate in river float trips, bike rides, yoga and more.
What’s most notable about Rooster Walk is its mission and impact on the Martinsville community. Rooster Walk began as a one-day gathering of family and friends to celebrate the lives of Edwin “the Rooster” Penn and Walker Shank, two friends who died nearly a year apart while only in their early twenties. You won’t go far without finding a family connection at this festival and several hundred volunteers donated their time to making the event a success.
Over the past 10 years, the festival has evolved into a signature community event and fundraiser for the Martinsville-Henry county school system. Since its inception, Rooster Walk has raised more than $150,000 for local and regional charities. More than half of those dollars go to the “Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund” which awards an annual educational scholarship to one high school senior for undergraduate study.
“I come every year because of music, friends and the connection to community,” shared one of the volunteers. “Those who put on this event give their heart and soul and the community is here to rally around them. It’s wonderful how people come from all over.”
If you weren’t one of the lucky ones to be counted among the 6,000 in attendance, check out some photos below and then head over to the Blue Ridge Rock’s Facebook page for an assortment of videos captured during the festival. In the future, if you want to spend Memorial Day in a beautiful setting, surrounded by kindred spirits all loving the music and the present moment, you’ll know that Pop’s Farm is the place to be.